One of the highlights of my work is meeting with students who participate in the Community College Initiative Program (CCI). CCI is a State Department funded program that in 2021 brought 93 international students from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ghana, India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey to six U.S. community colleges including Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). This year’s program physically brought the students to the U.S. but much of their course work and programming is being held virtual. I’ve been meeting with the students from this program since 2016 to share with them about peacebuilding. Here are posts from my 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 programs.
This year I met with them again but through Zoom. We started off with conversations with Mena Ayazi from Search from Common Ground, and Vahe Mirikian from Peace Direct. Mena and Vahe shared about their work in peacebuilding, while students talked about conditions in their countries and ways in which they might work to build peace.
The was followed by a discussion on approaches for bringing youth together who might be divided. We looked at the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by watching the USIP video on the Seeds of Peace Camp.
The main focus on the program though was the Peace Entrepreneur activity that I developed a few years back and use frequently with students. Recognizing that young people often have a better sense of their community needs than adults, I asked them (working in teams) to come up with a community-based program, product or initiative to promote peacebuilding.
Here is what they came up with:
Global Youth Leadership is an effort using the internet – via an app or website – to connect youth one to one to share about their concerns, hopes, local needs, and network on issues of leadership.
Art Land Therapy Center is a place for youth to come to de-stress, reflect, and deal with trauma through programs that use art.
Peace City is a space for youth to gather and form community around issues that need change.
Holding Gender Equality Workshops was the idea from one group. This would be a way of empowering young women.
Peacebuilding.org would bean online space to dispel rumors and present fact-based information about the current pandemic as well as other issues that focus on well-being.
And finally The Better Place would be a meditation program designed for law enforcement professionals. It was this group’s believe that police engaging in meditation on a regular basis would improve law enforcement work and community relations.
The CCI students arrived in January and will stay at NOVA until June when they return to their home countries. If you are interested in working with them virtually (or possibly even in person), let me know.